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Aylor v. Carr

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

July 1, 2019

ANDY AYLOR
v.
FRED CARR ET AL.

          June 5, 2019 Session

          Appeal from the Circuit Court for Davidson County No. 17C1929 Joseph P. Binkley, Jr., Judge

         This appeal arises from the trial court's award of attorneys' fees to three state employee-defendants. The plaintiff, also a state employee, sued the defendants in their individual and official capacities related to the plaintiff's termination from his employment. The defendants moved to dismiss the plaintiff's claims for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted pursuant to Tenn. R. Civ. P. 12.02(6). The trial court granted the motions and dismissed the plaintiff's claims with prejudice. The defendants then filed a joint motion for attorneys' fees, relying on Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-20-113, which permits a state employee to recover attorneys' fees when the employee is the "prevailing party" on claims filed against the employee in the employee's individual capacity. The trial court granted this motion and awarded reasonable attorneys' fees and costs to the defendants. This appeal followed. We affirm.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Circuit Court Affirmed

          Michele Hodges, Nashville, Tennessee, and Tia Marie Bailiff, Springfield, Tennessee, for the appellant, Andy Aylor.

          William Joseph Haynes, III, and Raquel Lee Bellamy, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Scott Lindsey.

          Andrew David McClanahan, Christopher Michael Lackey, and Jenifer Bonilla Moreno, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Metropolitan Government of Nashville & Davidson Co.

          Michael Stewart Holder, Yijie Larry Cheng, and David Randall Mantooth, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Joe Vanderveen.

          Samuel L. Jackson, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Craig Ott.

          Frank G. Clement, Jr., P.J., M.S., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Andy D. Bennett and W. Neal McBrayer, JJ., joined.

          OPINION

          RANK G. CLEMENT, JR., P.J., M.S.

         On June 3, 2016, Andy Aylor ("Aylor") was terminated from his employment with Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools ("MNPS"). Aylor brought suit related to his termination on February 21, 2017, against the Metropolitan Government of Davidson County, Tennessee ("Metro") and two MNPS employees. On July 13, 2017, over one year after the date of his termination, Aylor amended his complaint to add Joe Vanderveen, Scott Lindsey, and Craig Ott (collectively, "Defendants") in both their individual and official capacities.

         Aylor asserted multiple claims against Defendants, including negligent infliction of emotional distress, civil conspiracy, defamation, and violation of Aylor's due process rights. Defendants moved to dismiss the claims for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted pursuant to Tenn. R. Civ. P. 12.02(6), arguing, inter alia, that the claims were barred by the one-year statute of limitations. In their memoranda of law in support of these motions, Defendants also asserted that Aylor failed to sufficiently plead that Defendants were acting within their individual capacities. The latest date on which any of Defendants filed his motion to dismiss was October 2, 2017.[1]

         On January 18, 2018, the trial court entered an order granting, in part, Defendants' motions to dismiss, with the exception of two of the claims against Ott, on which the trial court requested further briefing. The trial court revised this order on May 1, 2018, and subsequently entered a final order and dismissed the remaining claims against Ott on July 10, 2018. The trial court dismissed the majority of the claims as to all Defendants on statute of limitations grounds, and all of the dismissals were with prejudice. Thereafter, Defendants filed a joint motion for attorneys' fees. The trial court granted the motion and awarded Defendants their reasonable attorneys' fees and expenses pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-20-113, which provides in pertinent part:

(a) [I]f a claim is filed . . . against an employee of the state or of a governmental entity of the state in the person's individual capacity, and the claim arises from actions or omissions of the employee acting in an official capacity or under color of law, and that employee prevails in the proceeding as provided in this section, then the court or other judicial body on motion shall award reasonable ...

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